Relationship Building

Relationships Over Data

As a new leader in an organization or role, it’s important to gain a deep understanding of the data, measures, and goals related to your work. But remember the data is not more important than the people. Be aware of your attitudes, behaviors, and energy; these days set the tone for your future and establish credibility. Act transparently and be open with people. Avoid any temptation to isolate yourself or focus on data over relationships. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try inviting a colleague to lunch away from the office.

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If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Sometimes when new leaders are getting started in their role, they feel pressure to make changes, get quick results, and prove their worth. The most successful new leaders, however, know to focus instead on building trust and relationships with the individuals they work with and lead. As a new leader emphasize:

  • Learning the organization’s pace and norms
  • Focusing on identifying short term priorities, and making note of focus areas for the next year and the following year
  • Empathy and Compassion. Change often makes people uncomfortable, avoid making sudden changes especially during your first 100 days
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New Leader to the Organization?

Spend as much time as possible observing and learning.

  • Review all of your organization’s content possible such as training manuals, and reports
  • Set up meetings with employees at all levels of the organization
  • Seek to learn and understand as much as you can about practices, processes, the organization’s culture, and the employees personally
  • Discuss what’s working well, areas that could be improved, and personal and professional goals
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The Value of Note-Taking

Set aside specific time in your schedule after meetings to take notes. When meeting with many people you’ll want to remember the valuable information you learned about the organization and them personally. Looking back on these notes will help you take action after your first 100 days have passed.

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Do What You Say

Follow through with your crisis communication plan after the crisis has blown over. Do what you say you will do to overcome the obstacle. Continue to keep the community updated about progress the organization is making or changes to the plan. Continue listening to your stakeholders to support rebuilding relationships and trust. After the crisis, analyze what worked well and areas the organization can improve their response before the next crisis.

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Avoid Speculation

Prepare for a crisis communication press conference by brainstorming as many questions as the team can think of that the media will ask and how to answer them. Be careful not to fall into the trap of speculation or answering opinion-based questions, be open and honest but don’t talk about uncertainties, stick with the facts. Don’t assume or provide insight on to what could have happened or what might happen.

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Consult a Lawyer

During a crisis it is essential for leaders to consult with a lawyer before releasing information. Once a lawyer is consulted release all of the information allowed as soon as possible. Avoid withholding any information you can legally provide, attempting to hide information can only harm the organization during a crisis, there is no benefit.

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Monitor Social Channels

Often times the first place people will look for information about an organization is on their social media pages. Organizations should have a plan for posting updates and messages about a crisis to social channels such as twitter. They should also be prepared to monitor those channels (sometimes 24 hours a day depending on the severity of the crisis) to gauge the audience’s perception of the incident and further guide communication.

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Consistency During a Crisis

Depending on the extent of the crisis, multiple audiences may need to receive information and messages from the organization. Develop key words to be used across all audiences such as investors, the public, and employees. Make messages as consistent and clear as possible to increase understanding across audiences.

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Don’t Ignore a Crisis

An organization’s reputation will fare better during a crisis if the organization can get in front of the messages being released in the media. Controlling the messages rather than allowing speculation and rumors to spread helps the organization maintain its reputation. Don’t ignore a crisis or requests for information from the media. Silence will only increase the problem.

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Take Ownership of Customer Complaints

Avoid placing blame on someone else, sincerely apologize, and take ownership of the situation. Try not to offer customers a prescribed solution to their problems, the suggested solution should be personalized. Don’t forget to thank your customers for their feedback, whether it is positive or negative.

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Seek Out Experts

Professional organizations and industry events are a great way to meet experts in your industry. These are people you can reach out to for advice and feedback, who may even become a mentor of yours at some point. To build relationships and your own credibility, make a commitment to attend specific industry events or a specific number of events per month.

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Plan to Get the Most Out of Networking

Before you attend the event, have your purpose or goal in mind. Are you looking for career opportunities? Are you trying to expand your business? Will people you want to meet be attending? Have a 30-second elevator pitch about yourself and organization or position based on the type of event and what your goals are.

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Provide Value to Your Network

Who do you know that could benefit from being introduced to another professional? How can you improve your relationships by connecting people or providing them value in some way? Think about what you can do to make a deposit in the emotional bank account of individuals in your network, then act.

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Be Curious

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Ask open-ended questions like, “What got you interested in that field of work?” and about personal and professional interests, look for commonalities to keep the conversation going.

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Networking Opportunities are Endless

We often think networking has to be a rigid, professional experience. However, time spent at volunteer events, children’s practices and activities, and during business travel are all opportunities for valuable networking. The next time you have the opportunity, introduce yourself to someone new and strike up a conversation.

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Re-Connect with an Old Friend

Reach out to a colleague at a previous job, an old friend from college, or someone else you’ve lost contact with. Spend time listening and catching up. The sole purpose of this connection is to start rebuilding your relationship. Listen for ways you can be helpful or provide value to your old friend and then follow through.

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Build Advocates

Not everyone has a leader that is willing to advocate on their behalf when it comes to a new position, promotion, or career change. It’s beneficial to develop relationships with other leaders and individuals in your industry, or with more experience than you, to advocate on your behalf. Identify at least 1 person you would like to develop a relationship with.

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Keep Your Network Informed

Stay in touch with past colleagues, industry friends, old classmates and others in your network. Update your network when you achieve new accomplishments, develop or advance your skills, successfully complete new projects, achieve outstanding results, or complete a degree or certification.

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Guide Employees to Connect to Purpose

To help employees better connect to their purpose, ask them purpose-related questions during one-on-one meetings. Here are a few examples:

  • What do you most enjoy about your work with us?
  • Is there anything you wish you could contribute to?
  • What do you value personally and professionally?
  • How can I as your leader better support your purpose?
  • What about your role are you most proud of and least proud of?
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Encourage Solid Performers

Solid performers want to build relationships with their leaders, have opportunities for professional development, and hear feedback that inspires improvement. Identify the solid performers on your team, and help them grow by identifying one skill or area for improvement at a time. Ask engaging questions to gain reflective insight and possible solutions from the employee. Ask how you can support their growth and professional development.

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Meet with High Performers Monthly

50% of high performers say they expect at least a monthly sit down with their managers, but only 53% say their manager delivers on their feedback expectations. High performers want feedback. They want dialogue with you as their leader. Make monthly meetings with high performers a priority.

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4 Steps to Re-Recruit High Performers

  1. Thank them for their contributions.
  2. Ensure that the employee is informed of the direction of the organization.
  3. Review the characteristics that make the individual valuable to the organization, be specific.
  4. Ask what can be done to ensure you do not lose the employee as a member of the team; reiterate that person’s importance to the organization’s mission.

Listen carefully and follow through with any requests for support.

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Rejuvenate High Performers

Conversations to re-recruit high performers are intended to have the high performer leave the conversation feeling appreciated, rejuvenated, and with a renewed sense of purpose. How would you express to a high performer they are a valuable member of your team?

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Ask Your High Performers

Ask what high performing employees need to be a long-term employee; what can you do for them? Coach this individual to take on new responsibilities or reach new levels of performance.

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Specific is Authentic

Generalized appreciation doesn’t feel authentic and may even come off as just going through the motions. Instead, use details and be specific about the person and their actions. This will show you are really paying attention and value the receiver.

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Design a Gratitude System

While everyone will appreciate a random act of gratitude, to ensure gratitude is a part of the culture, a system must be in place for expressing gratitude. Some ideas include: peer-nominated opportunities for employees who go above an beyond, establishing a gratitude station for thank you notes, ending each meeting with time for gratitude, etc. What system can you establish for your team or organization?

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Service Sets You Apart

Think from your customer’s point of view; what does your organization do to provide its customers with unmistakable value? How do your employees create loyal stakeholders? Do you see room for improvement?

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Leaders in Service

Team leaders and organization leaders set the example for how customers are treated. When leaders connect with employees, employees learn how to connect with their stakeholders. Connect with at least one employee each day this week.

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From Employee Engagement Surveys to Action

After the employee engagement survey results are calculated, gather your team and talk about the results. What ideas does the team have for improving the lowest items? What items are most important to them? After you’ve recorded their priorities, develop an action plan to present to the team. When leaders are transparent with their action plans, teams know their leader is committed to increasing their engagement levels.

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Learn from Mentees

Both a mentor and mentee can benefit from valuable feedback from one another. The original purpose of the relationship may be to guide the mentee, however, mentors can learn a thing or two from those with less professional experience. Next time you meet with your mentee ask for their perspective on an upcoming decision or project or ask for feedback around your leadership style.

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Find a Copilot

A copilot mentoring relationship is reciprocal. Both parties can rely on each other for help navigating the personalities in the workplace, talking through projects, and holding each other accountable. Think of a copilot that would help you improve your engagement level and the quality of your work.

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Establish a Mentorship Program

64% of managers say they don’t think their own employees will be able to keep pace with skills needed in the future and only 20% have the skills needed for both their current role and their future career. Organizations can capitalize on their own employees to fill in any skills gaps by establishing a mentorship program. This can be more formal one-on-one mentoring, peer-to-peer mentoring, or group mentoring. Get started by asking your employees what they hope to get out of their future mentorship program.

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Qualities of a Mentor

Look for a mentor who is honest, vulnerable, and has experience aligned to your goals. Seek to learn from their mistakes and accomplishments. Have they demonstrated success? Is their career path similar to the direction you envision for yourself? Are they respected amongst their peers?

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Commit to Mentorship

Becoming a mentor shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a big commitment. Mentors ensure professional development happens at the right pace and the individual has the right tools to succeed. They devote their time, energy, and accumulated knowledge to inspire mentees towards their goals. Before you agree to become a mentor, consider whether you’re able to make the commitment to the relationship your mentee deserves.

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Turn Aspiring Leaders into Mentors

To encourage the development of aspiring leaders, offer them the opportunity to mentor the organization’s newest employees. Not only will your aspiring leaders learn how to coach others, but the organization will see a variety of benefits from reduced turnover to increased morale.

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Seeking a Mentor?

A mentor can provide trusted advice, encouragement, and feedback about your career progress. Before seeking out a mentor, consider your goals for this relationship. How much time are you willing to commit to working with your mentor? You will only get out of mentorship what you put into it.

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Ask How to Improve Communication

Gather feedback from your employees and the community (investors, customers, people who benefit from your organization) regarding your communication. Do they receive too much communication, or too little? Are they able to understand the communication and find it relevant? What improvements do they recommend? Review the responses and tailor the organization’s communication practices to their preferences.

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Communicate by Listening

Individuals want to be heard and able to share their ideas. Leaders who are able to develop good relationships with their employees are likely good listeners. To become a better listener, be attentive, ask open-ended questions, ask probing questions, request clarification, paraphrase, be compassionate and empathetic, and summarize back the information you heard to ensure its accuracy and let the communicator know they are heard.

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Less Can Be More

Employees often cite ‘poor communication’ as a workplace barrier. This doesn’t mean that they want MORE communication. They are looking for clear, quality communication that provides them with feedback and direction. Think about how many emails or messages you send, calls you make, and meetings you hold each week. Are they all really necessary and is the purpose clear? How can you reduce the quantity while increasing the quality of those communications?

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Use Social Media to Increase Transparency

Social media facilitates transparent communication by reaching your community where they already spend time. How can your organization use social media to create an authentic connection with its audience? What about posting a quick ‘behind-the-scenes’ picture or the answer to a frequently asked question? Identify one thing you can do this week to show your organization’s authenticity on social media and post it!

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Communicate Consistently

Offer a consistent place for your internal audience and your external audience to find information about your organization. The internal and external communication spaces can be separated, however, they should both contain honest, open, timely communication. It’s important to include meaningful updates on issues stakeholders care about, upcoming events, insight into the company’s strategies and processes, upcoming changes, and challenges within the industry.

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Tell Stakeholders What they Want to Know

What is important to the organization’s stakeholders? Do you gather feedback from the stakeholders (the physical community that surrounds the organization, its investors, its customers, anyone that benefits from the service it provides)? Analyze stakeholder feedback to develop a plan to communicate openly with stakeholders based on the information they want to hear. Stakeholders want honest updates from the source.

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Approach Transparency Proactively

Reacting to a negative situation isn’t transparency. To build trust and loyalty with employees and the organization’s community, leaders can use open, honest communication to let individuals know about your processes, values, and the customer or employee experience, therefore holding it accountable. How can you approach transparency in a more proactive manner? What will you do this week to promote open, honest communication?

 

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Work for Good

Does your organization benefit society while also doing business? If your organization operates in a sustainable way or benefits humanity, it’s important to create a strategy for communicating that with the public. Choose at least one way to convey honest, open information about how the organization operates that will be most meaningful to your customers.

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Clarify Decision Making

Be open with all employees in the organization about the decision-making process. The more information an individual has about why and how a decision was made, the less anxious and uncertain they may feel. During conversations with your teams this week, make it a point to be transparent and start by explaining the why.

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Use Data to Action Plan

Collecting data is meaningless if we aren’t analyzing the data for opportunities and improvements. After data has been collected, analyzed, and shared, develop an action plan using information from these discussions. Set a challenging but achievable goal. Resist the temptation to set too many goals and stick to 1-3 to focus on.

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Sharing Data

After we have gathered data, it’s important to close the feedback loop and share the results with our organization’s stakeholders, such as employees and the community. Conversations with stakeholders around the data provide opportunities to gain additional information and identify wins, gaps, and possible strategies for reducing gaps.

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Use Probing Questions

Rather than risk alienating a team member with constructive criticism, try probing questions to initiate improvement. Start with: “Have you experienced any barriers to achieving results recently? How did you work through that?” Then, probe: “Can you think of a time you’ve experienced a similar barrier? What did you do?” Offer suggestions by explaining what has worked for you in a similar situation. Close by asking: “What actions could you take to grow and develop your skills? How can I help you?”

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What’s Working Well?

Even the highest performing employees appreciate check-ins with their leader. Meet with your direct reports on a monthly basis to talk about what is going well, what can be improved, what support is needed, and what progress the individual has made on their quarterly and/or annual plans.

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Culture of Care

Employees who feel that they’re cared about by their leader are far more likely to be engaged with their daily work and continue to work for the organization. Listen to individuals, tell them why you value them, and have empathy for their situations.

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Commit to Monthly Meetings

Employees want leaders who are approachable, work alongside them, provide training and development opportunities, build a relationship with them, and utilize efficient systems. These needs can be met by participating in one-on-one monthly meetings with individuals you supervise. Make a commitment today by scheduling monthly meetings for next month.

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Offer to Help

Reach out to a coworker and ask, “What can I do to help you today?” Execute the help they need without criticizing or becoming a distraction or a burden.

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Anticipate Questions

In preparation for an employee forum, consider sending out a request for questions from employees beforehand.  Doing so will give some employees more time to think about what they would like to ask the senior executive, as well as prepare the leader by reviewing what information employees are curious about.

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Support Succession Planning

Consider what a leadership development program would look like for your organization. Picture a process for developing aspiring leaders and supporting growth in areas such as communication, performance conversations, talent management, and continuous improvement. This may include leadership development retreats, learning tools, or a partnership with a mentor.

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Connect with Aspiring Leaders

Once you’ve identified upcoming leaders within the organization, get to know them better. Identify their skills and what areas can be improved. During one-on-one meetings with aspiring leaders, ask for their input on how they can build their needed skills. Strive to provide upcoming leaders with additional opportunities to own key outcomes.

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Communicate Your Superpowers

Spend time as a team discussing each individual’s strengths and natural communication tendencies. To build stronger work relationships, make an effort to communicate with team members in their preferred communication style. Brainstorm how to use each other’s strengths to accelerate results.

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Recognize Strengths

During one-on-one meetings with employees, provide specific praise in relation to the employee’s strengths. Communicate how the employee uses their specific strength to accomplish organizational goals.

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Stop and Celebrate

Some projects take years to complete, others are never complete due to consistent advances in technology. Take time to stop and reflect on the projects that you lead. Have you celebrated the small wins along the way? Have you taken time to recognize and appreciate all of the work that has gone into the project? Leaders who reflect on the team’s progress, recognize it and celebrate it, keep the team motivated for the long run.

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Listen for Understanding

Avoid the temptation of listening to others only to prepare yourself for a response. The act of listening helps us better understand those around us. Pause for 5 seconds to make sure the person is done talking before you begin your response. Consider responding with a probing question or a clarifying statement to be sure you’re understanding the message correctly.

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Satisfaction Surveys

How do you know your stakeholders are satisfied? The best way is to ask. Create a stakeholder feedback survey and distribute it to customers, clients, the community, parents, etc., to gather essential data used for decision making and future success.

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Recognize Using Social Media

Incorporate rewarding and recognizing team members into your social media strategy. People are attracted to their ’15 minutes of fame’ and sharing a post recognizing team members publicly is an easy way to make them feel appreciated and a way to show the community what you value. If your organization doesn’t use social media, consider a consistent spot in the newsletter instead.

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Harvest Stories

Ask team members to participate in sharing their ‘connect to purpose’ stories regularly – weekly/monthly meetings, all company emails, and during quarterly or yearly leadership development institutes or strategy sessions. Keep a collection of these stories to share with your organization’s newbies and those that need a little reminder of how their work makes a difference.

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Offer Freedom within the Fences

The most successful organizations are those that offer employees “freedom within fences.” The standards and expectations are collaboratively set, based on the organization’s goals. Then, leaders and employees creatively operate within the fence. This type of structure is not about control. Progress is monitored and direction is provided for how to achieve success.

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Be Aware of Nonverbal Communication

During conversations with your team members, pay close attention to their nonverbal communication. If a person’s body language and their verbal responses don’t match, this could be a sign to clarify what the person is trying to say.

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Engage People with Feedback

Formal and informal conversations with individuals provide us with feedback we can immediately use to improve employee engagement. If an employee expresses a need for a tool to get their job done, provide the employee with a time frame for when they will receive what is needed. Follow-up on the information you gathered to close the loop.

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From Feedback to Actions

Identify 1-2 specific, high-leverage next steps from stakeholder feedback that will make the biggest difference to those you serve and drive the results you aim to achieve.

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Forward Virtual Wins

When you receive an email from a customer or client celebrating an individual who makes a difference in your organization, spread the love. Forward the email to your entire team. Not only does it provide an example of what the right behavior looks like, but it will also help the team stay connected to their purpose.

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What is Their Preference?

Do your customers prefer an email or a phone call? Do they prefer 1 email a week, or 1 email a month? Learn your customers’ preferences and use the information to ensure they’re engaged the way they prefer.

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Find A Solution

If you and a coworker don’t agree, ask your coworker what they think the right solution might be. You can choose to accept it or find a way to compromise by adding a solution to their answer that pleases you.

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Quick Wins

Invite a coworker to have a cup of coffee or bring them a small gift to celebrate a job well done or personal accomplishment.

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Communicate Neutrally

When speaking about challenges, stop and think, “How can I phrase this in a way that doesn’t put others down – even subtly?”

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Ask Your Boss

“What is the one area in which you would most like me to place an extra focus?” and proceed to exceed their expectations.

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Be Open to Feedback

Thank your colleague who cares enough to speak up and provide you with feedback. Feedback is a caring gesture meant to help you grow.

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The Silent Communication

The most important part of communication is hearing what isn’t being said. During conversations, pay close attention to what body language is saying.

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The Joy of Reward

Recognize your high performers by giving them more responsibility or an opportunity to work in an area they are most passionate about.

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Feedback to Inspire

While giving critical feedback, remind the recipient that you believe in them and their abilities, the goal you are collectively trying to achieve, and the new information they need to drive to excellence.

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Excitement is Contagious

Get excited about what you do and then let that excitement loose on the people you work with.

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Use Fun to Motivate

Come up with a way to incorporate ‘FUN’ into a workday. To get people excited, you have to be excited. Why shouldn’t work be fun?

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Value People’s Ideas

When someone comes to you with an idea, sincerely thank them for it. We give others value when we let them know their ideas are important.

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Show Value by Asking Questions

Learn something new about an employee by asking them about their family or interests. Value is created when we show interest and concern for their well-being.

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Improve Yourself First

Identify one thing you will learn this week, and set aside the time needed in your schedule. Improve yourself before you attempt to improve those you lead.

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Show Your Team They Fit

Ensure everyone on your team has a place, a purpose, is prepared, and is passionate about what they do.

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Invite New-Hires into the Story

Stories build legends and legends build legacies. Share the stories that shaped your company and values with a new-hire.

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Share Your Purpose

Start today by sharing your connection to purpose with your team. Employees want to have purpose and do worthwhile work that makes a difference – remind them what this means for you by sharing your story.

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Tough Talks

When you are faced with a tough conversation, first consider your goals. The first is to solve the problem. The second is to do so without damaging the relationship.

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Get Personal

Individually ask your team members a personal question today. Investing in the emotional side of your team builds the trust required to achieve excellence.

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Support Your Colleagues

Add time in your meetings today to give the opportunity for others to share their ideas. This will encourage diverse thinking and problem solving.

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What Gets Recognized Gets Repeated

Set clear expectations by immediately recognizing individuals who are doing the right things in the right way.

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Give Trust to Get Trust

How do you get people to trust? Start with trusting first. Share a vulnerable experience with a colleague today that will begin building your relationship.

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Lower Your Talking Time

Value your listening and reading time at roughly 10 times your talking time on the road to continuous learning and self-improvement. Estimate how much time you spend talking each day and set a goal to lower that number.

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Back Pocket Ownership

We/They is the act of passing blame to others. Increase ownership behavior and eliminate we/they by visualizing your supervisor in your back pocket.

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Finding Meaning

All of us want to be a key player on a team that achieves something meaningful. Take time today to connect your team to the deeper purpose of the work you do. Reveal a deeper meaning behind your business strategy and actions the team carries out on a daily basis.

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Celebrate people

Recognizing when things go well is one of the most effective ways to get more of what we want. Publicly recognize a member of your team for a job done right.

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Guide to Purpose

Leaders help all employees find purpose in their work. Connect employees to what’s most meaningful to them. Ask, “What did you enjoy working on this past year? Why?” Then, help them align their upcoming goals to the organization’s overall strategy, using their response.

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Building Trust

Whether it’s the strategic direction or leadership decisions, building trust in an organization takes a consistent demonstration of action aligned to words. It also requires that trust first be given. Do you trust your team to do what they say they will do?

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